by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The function of the community, therefore, is to assist families when they’re too small and weak to do their jobs and to help the state when it’s too oafish and distant to carry out its duties. A healthy community will come to the aid of parents who don’t have the means to protect their children, just as it will come to the aid of a state that can’t figure out how to properly balance freedom and safety when that balancing act changes from neighborhood to neighborhood.
If we want to address the problem of gun violence, therefore, we ought to pause the debate where liberals say the problem is broken government and conservatives argue it’s broken families and pay attention to the problem of our atrophying sense of community. According to “What We Do Together,” a document prepared by the Social Capital Project, Americans go to church far less often than we did in the early 1970s. Compared to that same decade, we spend less time socializing with our neighbors and our coworkers. We don’t participate in voluntary organizations as much, and we join labor unions less often.
While some of these factors may not be troubling on their own, the overall picture is certainly alarming. Twenty-first-century Americans are retreating from community life, separating themselves from the institutions meant to hold society together should our families fall apart and our governments become ineffective. As so many mass shootings in recent times have shown, families have fallen apart and governments have not been effective at hindering the evil impulses of the angry young men those broken families produce.